The Feigned Revelation of Doctrine and Covenants Section 111

(Note to reader:  The following is an excerpt from a long letter written by M. S. Brothers to seven LDS apostles in early 2015.  No response to this letter was ever received.)

Even though most Doctrine and Covenants sections purport to contain the words of God spoken in the first person, events have unfolded in such a way so as to call into question whether a number of them came from God, or from some other non-divine source. D&C 111 is an excellent example. Its text contains what Joseph Smith claimed in 1836 was the word of God telling him, his brother Hyrum, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon to go to Salem, Massachusetts and obtain the “much treasure” which was there waiting for them. The church was heavily in debt at the time. A recent convert named Burgess had told Joseph of a house in Salem that supposedly contained a large quantity of money hidden in the cellar, and Joseph was determined to obtain it. The text of Section 111 makes clear that the treasure being sought is money, not converts. Therein, the four men are told specifically to “inquire concerning the ancient inhabitants and founders of this city,” (though all the city’s founders were long since dead by then) to obtain the money. Verses 4 and 5 contain this spectacular promise:

4 And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours.
5 Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them.

We know this claimed revelation, though it remains part of our canon, wasn’t from God. God’s promises always come to pass; the promises in D&C 111 never did. The four men obtained no money in Salem, and the church’s indebtedness problem only got worse. (See Richard Lyman Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, pages 328-329.) This scenario was extremely similar to one that occurred a few years earlier, in which Joseph Smith claimed a revelation from God had directed him to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page were dispatched to accomplish this purpose. When their mission rendered no money, Joseph Smith was confronted with the question of why the revelation had failed. Joseph then explained that his revelation had been of man, not of God. See David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, pp. 30-31.

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